Back to the Mosque – Story Flavour

One of the fabulous things about being in the location you are writing and researching about, you can always go back again.

The first time I went to the Grand Mosque of Paris I was quite frankly overawed by its beauty.

I was so busy looking and writing and taking photos that I kind of forgot to stop and smell the incense.

So yesterday I went back there to just sit and enjoy the ambience. To invite all my senses to participate in the experience.

I savoured the fragrance of the flowering wisteria. I saw the kind man feeding the pigeons.

I looked for the finer detail. I visited the library, and stopped to enjoy the moment of being surrounded by amazing books and history. 

I sipped mint tea and ate delicious pastries.

I discovered that it’s this kind of detail that turns your story location into a unique setting.

For me, being in the world of my story has added a whole new layer.

Have you ever had this experience? I’d love to hear about it.

Happy writing 🙂


This project is supported by the Victorian Government through Creative Victoria 

Look Beyond What You Can See

Research is not an exact science. You have to go where it takes you. You have to trust in the universe a little and you have to push through the road blocks.

Yesterday’s research didn’t really take me anywhere. The places I went to were either closed or didn’t have the information I was looking for.

Although there are some places I need to revisit, today I was hoping to find the last major piece of my story puzzle.

It was research I’d been looking forward to. I mean what’s not to love about doing research at a wine market … and that’s where I was heading … to Bercy.

As always with Paris, it was an easy train ride away (their Met system is amazing).

A walk through the park and I was soon at the Wine market … or the site of the wine market.

But apart from the cobblestones and ramps that looked like they might have been used to roll wine barrels down … there was nothing. I mean nothing.

It seemed strange that a thriving wine market had once existed here, but now there was no trace of it.

Determined not to give up, I walked up and down both banks.

I was soon rewarded for my effort.

Tucked away near one of the bridges was a whole series of posters (thanks to the Port of Paris) detailing the history of the wine market.

And beyond that, the Bercy Village, which according to Secrets of Paris blog are a series of rehabilitated wine storehouses.

Bercy Village

The village was a fascinating place and I discovered all sorts of gems that I hadn’t noticed at first.

It also looked as though some of the barges hadn’t changes much since Ruben was a boy 🙂

Have you ever had a day’s research turn out better than expected?

I’d love to hear your story.

Happy writing 🙂


This project is supported by the Victorian Government through Creative Victoria 

On the Nose – The Paris Sewer Tour

Beneath Paris is an amazing network of tunnels and channels that supports a whole life of its own. It was featured in Victor Hugo’s, Les Miserables and H L Humes novel, The Underground City, so I acknowledge that I’m not the first author to  include the Paris sewers as a story device.

But finding out about it has been fascinating.

The underground sewer system is an incredible feat of engineering which goes under the Seine in no less than 9 places … perfect for a story where characters have to get from one side of the river to the other without detection.

The first system was constructed under Montmartre in 1370. As the country’s population continued to grow, so did the sewer network … now there’s foresight for you. Shame today’s governments aren’t thinking so far ahead. (At least in Australia where I come from).

My French language skills are quite frankly as ‘on the nose’ as the Paris sewers so I wrote in advance to the Sewer tour operators to tell them I was coming in the hope they might be able to assist me. (You can find out more about the tours here.)

They have been amazing. Lionel answered my every email question and I was met on the day by Laetitia who gave me the royal treatment, personally introducing me to all the experts, and answering all my additional questions.

I’m told that I visited on a good day, but let’s be honest, the first thing you notice when you step into that tunnel is the smell … although strangely enough, after a while I got used to it.I highly recommend exploring the world of your story no matter where it takes you … although my tip for this experience … sometimes it pays not to eat first.

Have you ever done strange things for the sake of research?

I’d love to hear from you if you feel like sharing.

Happy writing 🙂


This project is supported by the Victorian Government through Creative Victoria 



Paris – Replenishing the Soul

The artist is the creator of beautiful things.
To reveal art and conceal the artist is art’s aim.
Oscar Wilde – The Picture of Dorian Gray

Just another one of those serendipitous moments on this trip.

The airbnb where I’m staying has a bookcase full of amazing books.

My problem … my French language skills are not good enough to read them.

In fact, the only book in English that I could actually read was … Oscar Wilde’s The Picture of Dorian Gray.  It was just the inspiring and welcome break I needed from trying to find my own words after a couple of confronting and emotionally draining days of research. 

How beautiful is Oscar Wilde’s writing. How stark a tale he tells.

And then of course, there’s Paris in Spring.


And there’s Paris.

Each day I find myself falling more and more in love with the place and its people.

My research trip to Paris has been made possible thanks to the generous support of VicArts.

Tomorrow I’m off to do the sewer tour to explore the world that lurks beneath Paris.

Happy writing 🙂


This project is supported by the Victorian Government through Creative Victoria 

Shoah – Hebrew Word Meaning Destruction

Yesterday’s research took me to Memorial de la Shoah.

The Shoah Memorial remembers the 76,000 Jews deported from France, most of whom perished in death camps.

11,000 of them were children.

Almost two years before the Vel D’Hiv roundup, Jewish people regardless of age were required by new laws introduced by the Nazi regime to register their names and addresses at their local police station.

On 16th and 17th July 1942 that information was used to find them and round them up.

The facade of Beaune-la-Rolande internment camp

They were taken to transit camps in France like Drancy and Beaune-la-Rolande,

Model of Warsaw Ghetto

From there they were deported to camps like Auschwitz where they were murdered.

Cylinder symbolising chimneys of the death camps

The Final Solution as Hitler called it (his plan to exterminate all Jews) was not a random act of hate. It was at least six years in the planning.

The Crypt – symbolic tomb of the six million Jews who died without any monument or place of burial

The wall of names where those who were deported are remembered

This project is supported by the Victorian Government through Creative Victoria 

A Picture Can Inspire 1000 words – Paris in Spring

Paris in Spring is a stunning place full of vibrance and colour.

It’s just warm enough to sit in the park and write … and watch … and immerse.

Writing in the Square de l’Aspirant Dunand. The gardens are a tribute to Lebanese painter and poet Khalil Gibran.

So much of the old and the new. There are still so many of the buildings and the laneways that would have been around in 1942 when Ruben was brought to Le grande mosquée de paris to escape the soldiers.

The old and the blue

Just one sight, one image conjures up so many things for me … so much imagined about what life would have been like back then.

How even the saddest hearts might have been affected by Paris in Spring.

How does weather and setting affect your writing mood?

Feel free to share.

Happy writing 🙂


p.s. Just about to hit 20,000 words. So much to write about, so much inspiration 🙂

This project is supported by the Victorian Government through Creative Victoria 


Paris Immersion – Discoveries in Unexpected Places

Writers have to be flexible. We must conjure up creativity in the strangest and most difficult conditions.  I’ve taught myself to write in the dark, on my phone, in notebooks, on table serviettes and drink coasters, pretty much anywhere.

To be in Paris, in the world I’m writing about is harrowing at times, but it’s such an inspiring and rich experience. It allows me to add a whole new layer of meaning and texture to my story.

And over the last twenty-four hours I’ve been writing … a lot. In fact I’m up to around 12,000 words in my new draft. I’m deep in my story, living each day in my character’s world … Paris 1942.

Equipment for eating snails … don’t think that’s going to happen

Paris today is not so different … and everywhere there are reminders of where I am, of what used to be and what is now.

In truth, (due in part to my poor grasp of any language other than English) some of my research experiences have not yet yielded the information I need.

Shelves full of French books that I can’t read … means I get more writing done

But I’ve found alternatives in unlikely places.

Seeing the cellars beneath the mosque is one goal that hasn’t yet come to fruition. But when I was putting out the recycling the other day, I discovered a cellar underneath my very own building. One with steps carved into stone, with huge old wooden doors leading who knows where.

Of course I bought a torch and went exploring. I can’t tell you what I found because that’s in my book, but this cellar was exactly the place I was looking for.

For me, writing isn’t just about today’s story or yesterday’s story, it’s about tomorrow’s story as well. I’m always gathering information that could be useful in works to come … stories I might not even have thought of yet. 

So wherever I am, I’m gathering sights, smells, sounds and emotions to add to my scrapbook of experiences.

Have you ever found an important piece of research in an unexpected place?

I’d love you to share your experience here.

Happy writing 🙂


This project is supported by the Victorian Government through Creative Victoria